In the seconds after you witness Colin Firth destroy a church full of gun-wielding maniacs in a gleefully violent five-minute bloodbath, the first thing you’ll do when you catch your breath will be to proclaim Kingsman: The Secret Service as the most fun film that could possibly be released this year. It has pugs, lots of guns, oozes devastating suaveness, and features one of moviedom’s most upstanding actors unleashing all kinds of hell. What’s not to like?
Firth stars as Harry Hart, a member of a highly skilled, top secret and, above all, deadly circle of spies, led by Michael Caine as Arthur (Hart’s M) and Mark Strong as Merlin (his Q), who dedicate their lives to fight the injustice in the world. But just like the front pages of the tabloids that Hart collects and displays in his study, which feature nothing but inane celebrity gossip, their heroic deeds must remain just that: top secret, and entirely uncelebrated. His path crosses that of Eggsy (Taron Egerton), a young upstart whose father was also a Kingsman, but is straying from the path into a life of petty crime. Hart soon picks him up, and whisks him away to the world of the stone-cold cool spies to train him to become part of the secret service; pitting him against a handful of others who are also vying for the same single spot. Of course, there’s also gloriously ridiculous villain Valentine, a billionaire tech genius played by a never-better Samuel L. Jackson, who’s planning a rather devious apocalypse-like scenario – so the Kingsman must suit up (or brogue-up, in this case) and save the world.
Chief among Kingsman: The Secret Service‘s many positives is the mere fact that it exists at all. Who else but Matthew Vaughn could convince Fox to back an ultra-violent spy picture, equal parts spoof and love letter to the genre? Of course, there’s the always bankable Firth at its centre – but here, he’s excitingly far from his comfort zone, and new(ish)comer Egerton is a wonderful fresh voice who, imperatively, sees the world of the Kingsmen through the audience’s eyes. And everything he sees always looks a million dollars: Kingsman is one of the most colourful movies in recent memory – in language, too – and the action is so sublimely directed, shot and choreographed, it’s interesting there’s not more clamour surrounding Vaughn, who is proving himself as good an action entrepreneur as Gareth Evans, the man behind The Raid. Vaughn could well be a John Woo for the ironic-minded Westerner. The blend of seriousness, tongue-in-cheek humour and completely bonkers action sequences all make for a film that uses outright OTT set pieces to applause-worthy effect, and instead of slyly subverting the genre, it always opts to wow us instead.
Kingsman is also a better comic book movie than anything Marvel or DC have ever released; with its highly stylised direction, it positively feels like it’s bursting out of the frame, and its inherent sense of fun is something that’s sorely missing from most movies these days – especially concerning British releases. With an explosive wink of the eye, Kingsman: The Secret Service is anything but stiff-lipped, and represents how the UK can still blindside expectations. It reminds you of everything you love about the silliest bits of Bond, but just as importantly, the most emotionally poignant parts too. This is almost as enjoyable as Vaughn’s other blood-fuelled hit, Kick-Ass, which is accessible, yet entirely cultish with a sharp wit to give its big heart an edge. But this simply has better dress sense.